Day 2 - Nail and hammer in hand - Agrii - Connecting Agri-science with farming

Emma Dennis Blog

October 29, 2014

Day 2 – Nail and hammer in hand

Driving to the farm africa office, the land is cultivated ready to grow peas and beans, there are pigeon peas stems still standing. The soil looks an incredibly fertile dark brown in patches, but is mostly made up of sand. The crops for the year will need to go in before the rains come and you can tell that they are imminent now. People are preparing and there are new drains being dug along the roads.

We passed through villages where the poverty was clear, as well as some where houses and shops had power and the water supply was no longer a central village well but running taps! The scenery change was as contrasting as yesterday at the foot of Kili. We swerved towards the foot of the Rift Valley and everything just went green. From the parched brown landscape and red mud brick houses we were suddenly in this land of verdant green leaves.

It was along this road that we suddenly veered off, seemingly across a field towards our final destination, the Farm Africa office.

Our work stations had been set up with rustic benches that were formed from slices of tree for want of a better description and the carpenter/farmers were bustling about setting each one up with the jigsaw pieces that we would turn into beehives – there were a lot!!

Lawrence – the Farm Africa Bee man hosted the introductions with a permanent grin and a wonderful sense of humour. We were all introduced as farmers as the locals looked on and introduced themselves back with some very complex handshakes!!

Getting started was easy enough, nail and hammer in hand, but I was lulled into a false sense of security when the first part of the building was significantly more straight forward than forming the individual panels inside. It very quickly became very apparent that I could not hit a nail straight and my job was rapidly changed to holding not hammering!! Sawing and chiseling was much more my forte. John my buddy was very patient and with very good, but limited English seemed to be telling me he was pleased.

The morning flew by and when we stopped for what I was convinced was lunch only to find out it was breakfast I realised we were also in for a culinary treat of a day.

Mushroom soup, made by the women of Farm Africa from the mushrooms of a project down the road was delicious and it was our first opportunity to try the honey. Divine. Lunch was a fantastic affair only a couple of hours later except for the savoury bananas cooked in sauce, which did have the unfortunate addition of some pieces of intestine, I put some in my mouth only to realise that it was most certainly an inner tube of an animal only for Lawrence and his winning grin to confirm, ‘um yes it’s intestine – haha’.

The village itself although it had power was more poverty stricken than some we drove through on the main road, and was much further off the beaten track. Lawrence said that 85-90% of the children go to first school so can read and write which is an amazingly high proportion. Discussing the project with him further. I asked about who’s ideas the beehive project was, do they ask the farmers what they want or do they see what suits the area. The developmental ‘buzzwords’ of the UK/Europe are often cited at home but how much do they really come into play here? Lawrence said they consult with the farmers but they often just need money to invest, so they talk to them and find out what they want and work out the best way to provide some of things. Governmental and foreign aid is easier to obtain for projects that also preserve the forest so the beehive project works well in this regard. The fact we had so many farmers and carpenters with us is, I hope, testament to the fact that they are engaged with the project.

The day ended with a lot of sore hands, but in remarkably good humour. The challenge was certainly proving to be just that, with most teams only completing two beehives, far short of our 67 beehive target. The lack and quality of tools was a sticking point, and the inefficiency of each producing whole beehives made for slow work, as did the multiple blisters! However tomorrow will be a new day and will we be able to instigate some line production, with everybody playing to their strengths? Only time will tell and we will have to wait and see.

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